The Avenida Gaudí, an elegant pedestrianized boulevard, stretches northward from the Sagrada Família; at the opposite end sits another key hallmark of the moderniste movement, almost equal in esteem to Gaudí's masterpiece. The Hospital San Pau (as it's more commonly known) is a remarkable work by the architect Domènech i Montaner. He is often referred to as the second most important moderniste architect (after Gaudí), and his magnificent Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the movement's most emblematic pieces.
The Hospital San Pau was commissioned by Pau Gil i Serra, a rich Catalan banker who wished to create a hospital based on the "garden city" model. While patients languished in turn-of-the-20th-century prisonlike edifices, Gil i Serra had the then-revolutionary idea of making their surroundings as agreeable as possible. He conceived a series of colored pavilions, each (like a hospital ward) serving a specific purpose, scattered among parkland. He only achieved half his vision. Although the first stone was laid in 1902, by 1911 funds had run out and only 8 of the 48 projected pavilions were completed. Domènech died in 1930. Work was later carried out by his son.
The Hospital San Pau is an inspiring place in which to wander. The interiors of the pavilions are off-limits, but their gorgeous Byzantine and Moorish-inspired facades and decoration, from gargoyles and angels to fauna and blossoming flora, greet you at every turn. The largest, the Administrative Pavilion, can be entered and explored. Its facade glows with mosaic murals telling the history of hospital care, and inside the building there are beautiful columns with floral capitals and a luxurious, dusty pink tiled ceiling.
- © Frommer's 2013
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